Written by Dr. Savannah Muncy, Pharm.D on
May 22, 2022
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Savannah Muncy, Pharm.D on:

You’re having trouble thinking clearly. Everything you used to be able to do seems difficult now. Sound familiar?

If so, you might be experiencing brain fog. It is a symptom that can manifest in many different ways, depending on the condition of the person dealing with it.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss what is brain fog a symptom of and how you can start to feel better.

Let’s get started.

What is brain fog, exactly?

Brain fog or mental fog is a symptom that can be present in a variety of conditions. It is characterized by problems with focus, mental clarity, and memory.

People who experience brain fog often feel like they are in a haze and find it difficult to think clearly. 

It can also include physical symptoms such as physical and mental fatigue or headaches for some people. But the most common symptoms include: 

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble remembering things
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Irritability
  • Challenges in problem-solving
  • Difficulty in making decisions 
  • Often lost in a train of thoughts in the middle of conversations 

These symptoms can make it hard to function in day-to-day life. If you’re dealing with brain fog, you might have trouble at work or school, with social interactions, or even just with simple tasks like grocery shopping.

Also, some people experience this mild cognitive impairment in a span of a few days to a couple of weeks, while others deal with a debilitating cognitive dysfunction that manifests for months and even years.

What is brain fog a symptom of, and what can I do to feel better?

There are many possible causes of brain fog. If you’re experiencing this symptom, it’s important to talk to your doctor.

They can help you determine any underlying health condition causing brain fog and develop a suitable brain fog treatment plan for you.

In the meantime, here are the top 3 possible diagnoses that brain fog could be a symptom of:

1) Sleep deprivation or sleep disorder

Lack of sleep is one factor that quickly leads to brain fog and impairs overall brain function.

Sleep is crucial for our physical and mental health, especially for the central nervous system. When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies and brains are not able to function properly.

So, make sure you’re getting enough rest with at least seven to eight hours of quality sleep every night.

If you’re having a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep, it’s important to talk to your doctor about it. They can help you determine if you have a sleeping disorder that is causing brain fog.

There are many different types of sleeping disorders, such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless legs syndrome.

Each disorder has its own set of symptoms and treatment options.

You can also try some relaxation techniques before bedtime to help you fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Here are a few tips: 

  • Establish a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Refrain from drinking alcohol and caffeine before bedtime.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine, including winding down for 30 minutes before sleep with activities such as reading or taking a bath.
  • Keep a cool and comfortable sleep environment.
  • Avoid looking at screens (television, computer, smartphone) for at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Get up and move around during the day to help you feel sleepy at night.

2) Dehydration

Dehydration can also cause brain fog.

When we’re dehydrated, our brains are not able to function properly because it can cause a decrease in blood volume, which leads to less oxygen and nutrients being delivered to the brain.

This can result in symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, dizziness, and difficulty concentrating.

It’s essential to drink enough water throughout the day to stay hydrated.

The amount of water you need depends on many factors, such as your activity level, age, and climate.

A good rule of thumb is to drink eight glasses of water a day.

You can also eat foods that are high in water content, such as fruits and vegetables.

Some good options include watermelon, strawberries, grapefruit, cucumber, and leafy greens.

If you’re not getting enough water from your diet, you can also take a supplement such as electrolytes to help you stay hydrated.

Electrolytes are minerals that are found in your body, such as sodium and potassium. They help regulate the amount of water in your body and are lost when you sweat.

Taking a supplement can help replenish these minerals and prevent dehydration.

You can also try adding some flavor to your water with fruit slices or herbs such as mint or lavender. This can help make it more enjoyable to drink and help you stay hydrated.

Talk to your doctor if you’re still feeling dehydrated even after following these tips. They can help you determine if you have a medical condition that is causing dehydration or if you’re not drinking enough water.

They can also recommend other ways to stay hydrated, such as taking a supplement or changing your diet.

3) Nutritional deficiency

Certain nutritional deficiencies can trigger brain fog, such as the following:

Iron deficiency

The lack of iron, for example, is one of the most common causes of fatigue.

Iron is a mineral that is found in food and is necessary for our bodies to make hemoglobin.

Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells (RBCs) that carries oxygen to the tissues in our body.

When we don’t have enough iron, our bodies can’t make enough hemoglobin. This can lead to anemia, which is a condition where there are not enough RBCs.

Anemia can cause fatigue, pale skin, shortness of breath, and brain fog.

If you think you may be iron deficient, talk to your doctor. They can order a blood test to check your iron levels.

If you are iron deficient, they can recommend ways to increase your iron intake, such as taking a supplement or eating more iron-rich foods.

Iron is abundant in fortified cereals, red meat, spinach, poultry, lentils, fish, and beans.

You can also try cooking with cast iron cookware to increase the amount of iron in your food.

Vitamin B12 deficiency

Another nutritional deficiency that can cause brain fog is the lack of vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 is a nutrient found in animal products, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and milk.

It’s also found in some fortified foods, such as cereal and soy milk.

Vitamin B12 helps our bodies make red blood cells and keeps our nervous system functioning properly.

A lack of vitamin B12 can lead to anemia, fatigue, weakness, and brain fog.

If you think you may be deficient in vitamin B12, talk to your doctor. They can order a blood test to check your levels.

If you are deficient, they can recommend ways to increase your intake, such as taking a supplement or eating more foods that are high in vitamin B12.

Some good sources of vitamin B12 include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, and fortified cereals.

You can also try taking a supplement that contains both iron and vitamin B12.  

Folic acid deficiency

Folic acid is a B vitamin that humans require in order to make healthy red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout the body. Without enough folic acid, your brain might suffer from brain fog.

Folic acid is a nutrient found in leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts, and fortified foods.

If you’re pregnant, it’s important to get enough folic acid because it helps prevent certain congenital disabilities in the baby’s brain and spine.

A lack of folic acid can also lead to anemia, fatigue, weakness, and brain fog.

If you believe you may be lacking in folic acid, see your doctor. To determine your levels, they may request a blood test.

If you are deficient, they can recommend ways to increase your intake, such as taking a supplement or eating more foods that are high in folic acid.

Some good sources of folic acid include leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts, and fortified foods.

You can also try taking a supplement that contains both iron and folic acid. 

Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency is another nutritional deficit that often leads to brain fog.

Vitamin D is a nutrient that our bodies need to absorb calcium and phosphorus. It’s found in some foods, such as fatty fish, eggs, and fortified milk.

It’s also made when our skin is exposed to sunlight.

Vitamin D helps keep our bones and muscles strong. It also helps our immune system function properly.

A lack of vitamin D can lead to fatigue, weakness, bone pain, and brain fog.

If you believe you may be lacking in vitamin D, see your doctor. They may request a blood test to determine your levels.

If you are deficient, they can recommend ways to increase your intake, such as taking a supplement or spending more time in the sun.

Some good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, eggs, and fortified milk.

You can also try taking a supplement that contains both vitamin D and calcium. 

Other Common Health Conditions with Brain Fog as a Symptom

Aside from the three possible diagnoses listed above, there are many other potential causes of brain fog, such as the following:

  • Obesity
  • Chronic stress
  • Mental health conditions (e.g., depression, anxiety)
  • Bacterial overgrowth from overconsumption of sugar
  • Thyroid conditions
  • Covid-19
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Lupus 
  • Cancer and cancer treatment
  • Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
  • For women, pregnancy or perimenopause and menopause

The Bottom Line

Brain fog can be a symptom of many different conditions, some of which are more serious than others.

If you’re experiencing brain fog, it’s important to talk to your doctor. They can help you determine the cause and develop a treatment plan.

In the meantime, there are things you can do to help improve your cognitive function.

You can try eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly. You can also try taking vitamins and minerals supplements essential for brain health.

If you’re still struggling with brain fog, there are other resources available to help you cope, such as counseling or therapy.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Also, learn more about brain fog and how you can get rid of it naturally through these resources, and feel free to join this online community of brain health advocates.

 

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